older model1731_YasminaRossi
Yasmina Rossi photo via aww.com.au

This week I have been mostly walking around in public in my bra and pants, says Elaine Kingett. You might call it a bikini but it felt like underwear to me and, what exactly is the difference in reality? Plus, I could do with some of lingerie’s construction values these days. Arriving in the heat and 100 watt light of Crete from the grey and grime of a London summer, where socks and sheepskin slippers were worn indoors, I spent the first 24 hours over-dressed and fearful of flashing any skin. I’m not a woman who wears shorts and vests in the city and the idea of exposing myself was scary. Would ‘they’ think I was an old lady in a young girl’s bikini, given that it’s the same style black triangle top and side-tied bottoms that I’ve worn for years? Albeit that this one is a more upmarket Boden version with wonderfully preformed cups?

Muscle woman on beach
Elaine on the beach

I’ve bought new swimsuits every year in a fit of propriety: I never wear them. And make-up? Did I? Didn’t I? Waterproof eye stuff seemed the sensible solution, I’d test-run it in the shower. And sun tan lotion, in-house application or after swim on the beach and risk looking like a veteran porn star with a penchant for single cream? Hair? Half-a lemon to juice on the front, like we used to do in the olden days to bleach it up? In the olden days, I laid on the beach in the South of France topless, smothered in baby oil and smoked Benson’s and read Jackie Collins. In the olden days, we had fold-out, triangular, foil-lined, cardboard things to stick under our chins to make sure we really crisped up. I’ve had a basal cell skin cancer on my nose removed to prove it. Now, I go to the beach with three different strengths of sun screen, nuts and a bottle of water.

And I grab a parasol and lounger from Lulis the beach boy, ‘Yes, just the one, efharisto’ poli,’ I’m tempted to rent two and hope a random turns up under the other. Years ago, recently widowed, I was haunted by what other couples and families thought of me and my three kids without a dad,’ Bet he’s left her, found a younger model.’ Now I imagine they think, ‘Lucky bugger, on her own.’

Greta Garbo on the beach photo: Martin Munkasci

Elaine is off on her summer adventure but will be running Write It Down! creative writing courses in Spain, this September. Here’s a bikini feature and swimwear advice from Alyson (for the Guardian) and here are some bikinis:

42 thoughts on “You’re never too old to wear a bikini

  1. You may never be too old to wear a bikini, but the world isn’t always ready to see what only your husband should! I’m tall, very slim, with very well-toned legs (I cycle a lot), but I look hideous in a bikini. I’m 62. I admire the courage of the older woman to bare their wrinkly flesh to the world, but I don’t like what I see in the mirror. Which means other people won’t either.

  2. No, never too old but the world has enough visual pollution without me adding my multi- muffin tops and cottage cheese limbs to it all! I’m thinking that a burkini would be just about the right amount of fabric for me.

  3. Shocked by article but more so by comment.. Is this an episode of Terry and June, are we all mean’t be be dolly girls on the Dick Emery show. I am an overweight, perpetually pasty 50 something with white hair. I love the feeling of sun on my skin, and water, not brave enough or interested in affiliations to go full buff so a bikini will have to do. I am not concerned about what others see. I am concerned about the sense of well being that come from getting as much sun and water preferably sea water on the skin in the brief time we get to experience it ..that said much happier to do so abroad. Unlikely to go full bikini mode on local rural beach and having conversations with neighbours over parking, who is doing what, etc, while trying to hold a book at a strategic level

  4. I’m 60.
    I wear (and will continue to wear) a string bikini and at this point have no intentions to stop. I am slim but not as toned as I used to be for a variety of reasons but I’m not letting a number -age or size – define me.
    Damn it, I wear a bikini, sleeveless dresses and cat eye liner, sometimes all at once if the mood takes me and I’m in the right place!
    Do what feels best for you, I’ve always worn bikinis, I’ll stop when I’m ready not when the world thinks I should, and if people don’t like it, they can look away.

    1. Completely agree with you Lyn – wear whatever you feel happy in, I’m 52 and don’t have a ‘bikini body’ or whatever it’s called but I still wear a bikini on a beach holiday and no one is pointing and staring. There are loads of families on the beach in Spain, Italy, France, women of all ages, shapes and sizes. People tend to just get on with having a nice relaxing time.

      Bea – thank you for your comment, the bit about neighbours and strategic book positioning made me smile. Elaine is on holiday in Greece and so this was meant as a beach holiday post, we are definitely not suggesting running around town like 70s dolly birds!

  5. Well, it seems to me it entirely depends on how good your flesh and your bits are. I look terrible in a bikini and always did, so it’s an easy decision to stay in a one piece and there are so many styles that, er, tuck your flesh in and smooth the bumps. I’d probably do better in a burkini to hide my knees, but I don’t think I’d want to swim in all that fabric.

  6. I`ve noticed that retro swimwear is all the buzz this summer. To those of us that are not comfortable with the itsy bitsy that is bliss! Beautifully shaped full cupped tops and bottoms that go all the way up to your belly button. And not cut high up on the hips, but modestly on your thighs. Sugary pinks and blues, dotted yellow and pea green, what`s not to love? Bring ém on!

  7. I’m increasingly hearing my friends say that they’re now “too old to wear a bikini”, which makes me sad as it’s the media planting that thought. I think sod that, wear what you’re comfortable in, and what makes you feel fantastic. I love it in Spain when you see the local ladies of all shapes and sizes hitting the beach in their bikinis – go for it! I’m with Tove on the retro swimwear – there are some fantastic prints, like lobsters and pineapples, which add to the fun element. And isn’t that what holidays are all about?!

  8. I wear a bikini. It isn’t a string nor is it a thong. It’s a regular bikini . I like my bottoms with a high cut thigh, and my tops well-padded to make my titties appear perky–like two pink buoys! I’m 61 and I’ve got some jiggly bits working and , because I’m lazy, my belly is soft, and I don’t give two shits if others find my body offensive or two old. Don’t f*cking look at me. Go look at who you wish you were–then get depressed because you don’t look like that. It’s too hot to be covered up when at the beach. I’m happy in my skin. My body has been through 61 years of ups and downs and my body has always been there for me. I especially like swimming topless when I’m in France. French beaches are old-lady-body friendly. My rant stops here….

    1. I am now 50, I remember when I was 30 and my mum was 52 and I had convinced her to come with me to Greece for two weeks, my mum was so nervous about buying a bikini at the time, but she looked amazing in it, I took a photo of her in it on holidays, my mum has since died but I have her in that bikini in a frame in my kitchen where I can see her reminding me to take chances. 🙂

  9. I’m over 60 and still wearing a bikini. When buying the last one, last year, the assistant (over 50; great) looked at my doubting face and said “Go on, if you stop now you’ll never go back.” So I bought it and wear it. Do I like my spreading body? My cellulite thighs that morphed from halfway decent legs into dimples, creepy trunks? No. But is that going to stop me wearing my bikini? Hell no! Swimming feels so much better when one can feel water all around. Nude is best, but pragmatically a bikini is the next best. Be brave, go for it!

  10. Hoorah for mature bikini wearers! If you are happy wearing a bikini I say go for it,whatever your age. I am 61 & wear a bikini on holiday (& drape a sarong when walking around). + Practical considerations – it’s too hot to wear a swimsuit. We are free to wear what we want in a free society, unlike women in less enlightend countries, so let’s have more confidence and less angst!

  11. I have never given this topic much thought in my personal life, always happily wearing a bikini on holiday in Italy.
    However since becoming a fashion blogger at 48 & subsequently using social media to promote my posts I’ve noticed the very real & often harsh judgements being bandied about.
    Still here I am currently lounging by the pool & on the beach wearing a bikini, although in Italy everyone wears one! I even counted 3 heavily pregnant women in bikinis on the beach today, I guess that’s a no no too?
    Pah stuff n nonsense!
    Wear a bikini don’t wear a bikini, why should anybody care so much?

  12. I’ll be 70 in 2 months (congratulations to self). I exercise regularly swimming, pilates, yoga now and then and walk at least an hr every morning. I’m slim and toned. But…there is a bit of extra skin here and there and I have IBS so there is bloating from time to time. I would never wear a bikini! Ever. But that’s my choice. I love a black one piece that creates a smooth silhouette. Anyone who wants to wear a bikini should! Absolutely.

  13. Oh ladies, you all made me laugh out loud reading your posts! I run 3 miles a day and do hot yoga but have not worn a bikini in years for all the reasons stated above by many of you. Maybe I should rethink that since am heading to Italy in 2 weeks and turn 61 at the same time. I’ll try a couple of bikinis on and see if I can stand the sight of myself and go from there.

  14. I live in North America where woman tend to be over stuffy about what is age appropriate to wear. We spend the winter in Mexico along with many other snow birds. This is where I feel I am able to totally abandon all body shaming cares. Out come my bikinis, my skimpy dresses, tops and short shorts and I feel great! My body has definitely seen better days, having housed and birthed 3 8lbs boys and now being close to 60 I definitely look nothing like the 20 yr olds on the beach but you know what there time will come! Tee hee! I say do it and enjoy it.

  15. We are never too old to wear a bikini, but the question is how comfortable are we doing so in public.
    I have worn a bikini for 60 years but the last 5 years out of the public eye. I don’t enjoy what has happened to my body after 55 when I entered into the land of menopause.
    But I, like some of you are the biggest critics of our own bodies.
    What we had is gone and now we need to feel good about embracing life after 50.
    Yes, when I wear my bikini in the privacy of my own backyard, I see my muffin top and say to myself I need to work out more.
    But then again, most overweight women under 50 probably feel the same way too.
    Some women proudly wear a bikini when they probably shouldn’t, but they don’t care what others think and I say to them, “You go girl!”
    I haven’t worn a bikini in public but maybe I’ll just hang out on the beach with the rest of the muffin top women wearing bikinis sipping cocktails complaining about their bodies too!

  16. Im also a runner and in decent shape but hell no I am not comfortable in a bikini. I never was, not even as a teen. (Perhaps because the boob Gods forgot about me and left me with the figure of a 13 year old boy.) Now, after children, there are too many belly stretch marks, and too much downstairs hair that I cant be bothered dealing with. Im happy in a dinky pair of daisy dukes and a tank. Y’all can rock on with your bikinis – more power to you!!

  17. I’m with Lyn abd Tracey. I wear a bikini and love the sun and swimming. Am reasonably fit becaise I care how I look, Add a rash guard when I need to protect my chest from too much sun.

  18. I’m 61, weigh exactly what I should for my height and I wear a bikini.
    Do I have a ‘bikini-body’? What is a ‘bikini-body’?
    Is it the Cape Town beaches/St Ives/Tropez bikini-body I had in my teens and early 20s? Heck no!
    Is it the bikini-body I had when pregnant with my children – Northern Nigeria/Birmingham? No!
    Is it the body I was shamed into hiding during my 40s when the women of the world’s magazines all weighed what I last weighed aged 12? No!
    It is the body of a woman who has lost friends to illness, whose friends have lost breasts to cancer, whose faces have been disfigured to the surgery that saved their lives.
    But this is a healthy body with well-toned abs (regular Pilates/walking) that are hidden behind a layer of soft tummy flesh, legs that once rowed with strength now have varicose veins, and a lot of de-pigmented scars (thanks to the pesky Nigerian mosquitos) and a bit of cellulite to boot!
    So, as imperfect as the areas of the tummy and below maybe, if you look up you’ll see big brown eyes and a huge grin!
    Embracing the years with attitude!

  19. At 60, I was going to hang up my bikini up this year – but then I read all these posts and totally changed my mind. My body isn’t bad for its age, pilates, running and the 5:2 keep it reasonably slim. More importantly than that, it’s given me two lovely boys and it’s survived two bouts of melanoma. So despite the wobbly bits and a mangled leg due to the cancer, I’m going to be proud of my still strong, healthy body and hang on to my bikini. Another reason – I’m tall and swimsuits are never long enough!

  20. This (and Jenni B’s absolutely brilliant comment in response above) really hit the mark for me. For years I have been sporting the unglamorously named “tankini” in the mistaken belief that I somehow owed it to the rest of the world not to expose my post childbirth stomach. This year was a bit of an epiphany; for one thing I have always hated the feel of the wet clingy top as it slowly and chillingly dries against my skin, and for another I started to wonder what sort of a role model I was being. If we don’t show young women how real bodies change over time they are in for a bit of a shock when it is their turn and the cycle of shame and covering up will continue.
    So last month it was bikini top for the first time in about 15 years. The main feeling was one of freedom and comfort. Admittedly I had to cover even more “acreage” with expensive factor 50 (the basal cell skin cancer removal also struck a chord), but that was a small price to pay.
    Did anyone notice? I have no idea – and I don’t care.

  21. I’m 63 and always wear a one piece suit. I’m not in terrible shape. My husband and I go to Mexico once or twice a year for a vacation where there are other tourist from Europe and South America. Those women don’t seem to have any problems with wearing a bikini no matter what their body looks like. After reading these comments I just might purchase a two piece suit (baby steps) and then who knows maybe a bikini will be next. Thanks ladies.

  22. I haven’t even worn a swimsuit for at least 20 years. I thought I was fat then at 11 stone, but I wasn’t. At 60, I am definitely too fat for a costume, never mind a bikini. All my female relatives are short and dumpy, so it’s no good trying to buck my genes. At 5’4″ and 14 1/2 stone, using cancer treatment tablets as an excuse really doesn’t make it any better. Lovely for all the people who have been able to keep slim figures though.

  23. Well said Jenni B! At 52 and after many years of body hatred, dieting, deprivation and exercising myself to be what I thought I should look like, I am finally at peace with the body I have. I work in the fitness industry and promote wellness to women over 40, so am happy to wear what the heck I want, as long as it makes me feel good! That includes wearing both a bikini (and a lovely one piece for body boarding) on my recent holiday abroad. In Cornwall last year I was wearing a wetsuit, so happy to wear whatever the occasion dictates! Thanks Alyson for such an empowering site for young at heart women 🙂 Purple hats all the way!!!

  24. Wearing a bikini as an older person is similar to whether or not you can keep your long hair. I gave up wearing a bikini when I was 50 but then lived on a boat in warm climates for five years so had some made with larger bottoms to accommodate mine! I have a reasonable body but am now back into one piece swimsuits. I just feel more comfortable. Regarding the hair – I love the long hair on those who have an abundance of it but mine is fine and quite thin on top so am forced to do what I can to make it appear thicker which means wearing it short. Great for those who don’t need to.

  25. Oh my goodness do we beat ourselves up. I expect there are middle aged men who worry about what they are going to wear on the beach but I suspect not many torture themselves the way we do! Though it has to be said that most middle aged chaps seem to be happier in swimming shorts these days, with budgie smugglers only making an appearance on Olympic diving boards.
    Ive always covered up. My pasty glow in the dark Irish skin is always one sun beam away from burning. However if women want to cover up because that feels modest or enjoy a bikini or want to be completely naked because that feels right then I support your right to do either without being judged.

  26. Oh my gosh, I have never left you a comment, rather always lurking in the background and reading. But something struck a chord today and I felt I would chime in.
    I was a swim instructor and synchronized swimmer when I was young, yet I have not been comfortable in a bikini for a very long time, not since the age of 14 when I wore a lovely white one to the pool and was ogled by the grown men lounging around. The body I had then was very “mature” shall we say, and I couldn’t handle the staring. From that moment on I was self-conscious and uncomfortable with my body. Because I matured early, was very curvy and had a large, developed bust-line. I realize my chest caused me so much discomfort emotionally! Also, finding a suit that fit was always difficult and frustrating. But finally, many years later after trying again and wearing bikinis after the birth of my two children, (yes AFTER, when I was at my all time lowest weight and best shape, due to breastfeeding – the breasts did their job really well!!) it was easier and I felt okay. For awhile. Now, years later, menopause has hit, HARD, my body doesn’t seem like my own any longer. I am ashamed and uncomfortable with the amount of weight I’ve gained, even while doing Pilates, yoga and walking almost daily. I keep mostly covered up on the beach, taking long walks on the shore wearing comfy, casual clothing. Before any of this physical change started I realize I can remember bickering with my husband to avoid going to the beach or pool parties with our friends because sub-consciously deep down I realized I didn’t want to expose myself in a bathing suit, but couldn’t bear to tell him the truth. So we would bow out because we weren’t getting along. Or I would hunker down at the side of the pool, fully dressed in the heat while everyone else would be playing in the water. Wow, that is sad and pitiful, but the truth. And if only I could be the weight I was then!!! I would be so relieved, but would I feel more comfortable with my physical self? Who knows. I am envious of those of you who have the courage and self confidence to wear whatever kind of swimsuit you want , skinny or not, let it all hang out and good for you! I am trying to get there but having difficulty. I was always considered the “pretty”, “slim” one in our group. Now the other women have all, every one of them, gotten very trim, and I am feeling large, dumpy and kind of old. What to do with those feelings, how to heal and be comfortable with my body and also not cover up with dumpy clothing and stay stylish? Like stylish matters! ( But I feel it does or I wouldn’t read your blog Alyson!) That is my big challenge pretty much all of the time. What a lot of energy I’m spending on that!! Blech! So enough, I’ve probably written too much, but it feels like I am unburdening myself of a deep shameful secret, and I thank you for that. Still, I see no bikinis in my future!!

  27. I find that it is really not worth spending time worrying how, at various stages of our lives, we will look like on the beach. Once there, and the temperature is high, it all becomes meaningless. Everyone regardless of age and figure, wears as little as possible and couldn’t care less about what others are wearing.

  28. Sheree, could not agree more. And there are people out there with physical handicaps, who also should be allowed to wear what they like without worrying about “offending” others.

  29. I’m coming up to 64 and still wear a bikini too! Granted not quite as brief as when I was young but a a proper bikini nonetheless. I hate one piece swimsuits! Sticky, clingy, straight jackets! I’ve had four children and my body is pretty flabby as I have arthritis and find it difficult to excercise. But, look around you when you’re on the beach…..women are all sizes, shapes and degrees of being ‘toned’ whatever that means. Even young women can have a not so perfect figure, too fat, too thin, Apple shape, pear shape, flat chested and bazookas! Who cares!! If you’re on holiday you’re there to have fun and relax, not worry about how you look to other people, you will almost certainly never see them again anyway! We are all basically the same underneath so just enjoy yourselves. We’re lucky we are still here, so wear what the heck you feel comfortable in. Life’s too short!

  30. I’ve never commented on your blog either, and for the most part I applaud your work. However, this post really bothered me for this reason: despite all the celebratory promotion of older women as still beautiful and stylish, blogs like yours continue to use pictures of older MODELS to illustrate such “daring” acts as wearing a bikini, such as Yasmina Rossi above. She has a body that those in their 30’s would envy. She has no evidence of the post-menopausal changes in her body shape and size that most of us struggle with. She will look fantastic in a bikini for another decade, at least. She does not inspire me; she’s a genetically blessed outlier who does not represent most in my age group at all. I’m 55, fit and slim, and still look pretty good in a bikini. But, I’m not a model, and I’ve always had to fight against feeling inadequate because I don’t have perfect proportions and legs for miles. Now, I find myself struggling with the inevitable changes in skin elasticity and fat distribution that middle age bring – changes models such as Yasmina appear to have escaped. As I age further, it depresses me to think I will continue to be bombarded with images of completely unrealistic and unattainable beauty, no matter if the model is “mature.” Hasn’t five decades been enough brainwashing? Elaine’s beach photo does inspire me – she looks strong and healthy and REAL, and I agree with the comment above that says we ordinary older women must bare ourselves so younger women can confront reality and break the cycle of shame and comparison.

  31. I would also, respectfully, agree totally with Elizabeth that Yasmina Rossi is not a standard role model that mere mortals can aspire to. She has an amazing figure for a woman of ANY age which 99% of us do not have and could never achieve with all the dieting, exercise and meditating in the world.

  32. I have just read Heidi’s comment properly and it made me so sad. Like many women, I developed quite young and was the rabid attention of older men and I felt intimidated by my body and burgeoning boobs. I became borderline anorexic at 16 and skinnied down to a dangerous weight and got furry all over to boot!. By eighteen I semi-came to my senses, put on some weight and found that I actually was pretty/sexy/attractive/desirable etc. etc. blah blah and was always considered the attractive one/the slim one. But hah! three children now grown and the menopause and I too have hangups about ageing and the ensuing thickening and drooping of all areas. But, as I posted before, I have survived two heart attacks and my body has housed three amazing adults. I have found peace with my body and don’t need anyone’s approval on how I look or dress, Please, Heidi don’t be so hard on yourself – most people are just wonderfully ordinary.

  33. Who cares what age you are, what size, what colour! What matters is how you feel about you. Bikini or not. Having just arrived home from Phuket where women from all corners of the globe wore what the heck they wanted to regardless of age, size or shape I feel a sort of sadness and mild anger at some of the comments. Fashions or fads vary around the world but one thing is for sure. If you want to wear a bikini, even a string bikini…DO IT! And let no one tell you otherwise!

  34. I never posted a comment here….but I read the article and the other comments with astonishment. I am from Germany and spend every summer in Spain. At the beach nearly every woman, regardless of age or size, is wearing a bikini. And there are many grandmothers with their grandchildren enjoying the sand and the water……There is no staring or fingerpointing because a bikini is just the thing to wear at the beach. I didn’t even realize that people might think about it; although I admit that going to your local swimming pool might be a different thing.

  35. I’m guessing that the standards for beach wear in Europe are very different from those in America. America has a Puritanical past and a youth-obsessed present, which explains why hardly anyone over 25 appears in a bikini around here. I’ve not been on a beach in Europe for decades — and I’d like to see pictures of women my age in all shapes and sizes, in bikinis, before I commit — but if it’s as relaxed as described, I’m on my way!

  36. @sisty so true we can spot the Americans wearing full swimsuits on a European or Caribbean beach, no bikini as you say over 25 yrs, but you would feel the odd one out as everyone else is in a bikini. I’m from Canada so similar body age rules as US, I went to Spain a couple of years ago with only a full swimsuit, went to beach wearing it felt like I was the only person not only in full suit but the only one not topless . So I whizzed upto the little shops, beach front, bought a itsy bitsy bikini, the first one since I was late teen, wore it out of the shop , strolled down to the beach and whipped my top off! Lol. I felt amazing, and guess what no one male or female took any notice of this 55 yr old woman, I was just part of the crowd , enjoying a beautiful day at the beach ! Since then I have worn bikinis every where I go except for, guess where? Florida! Lol.

  37. Wore a bikini in Greece for the first time for YEARS? Thought I would be self-conscious at 53 but I wasn’t at all – so many shapes, sizes and ages and each and every body has achieved something amazing. For me, childbirth and menopause have obviously changed my body but I’m healthy and happy. Let’s not over-complicate getting dressed (or undressed) – wear what makes you happy.

  38. I never wore a bikini as a girl and think I’m going to keep it that way.
    I have freckles all over my legs, arms, face from sun exposure, yet my torso, from shoulders down are pristine.

    At this point why subject that skin to the sun as well?

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